On October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress authorized the procurement of two fast, agile, well armed vessels to seize munitions bound for the British army in America thus giving birth to the United States Navy. On this 235th birthday, it is fitting that we remember those who are and have served our nation. One of the least told, but most important, stories about the Navy is that of the destroyer men, the "Tin Can Sailors", who supported the landings on Omaha Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944. There can be no better narrators of this story then the Army men who landed there on that day. Ronald Reagan's tribute to the 2nd Ranger Battalion's exploits at Pointe du Hoc, given on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, is one of his very best speeches. Here is what "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc" have on their own webpage
"Lt. Col James E. Rudder C.O. of the Provisional Ranger force called on assistance from the Satterlee. The Satterlee drew just over 17 feet of water; coming as close as possible to the action the commanding officer placed the destroyer in harm's way short of ½ mile from shore...running back and forth parallel to the shore-line and laying down decisive gunfire in support of the Rangers; the 274 man Destroyer gave impressive performance.
The Satterlee defied every rule of safe naval operation during this combat to support the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the mission.
The Destroyer laid in volley after volley and turned and made more parallel passes until rudder spoke into his radio again, "Very Nice Shooting...Don't go Away". The precious time and lives saved by the valiant crew and commander of DD-626 Satterlee contributed significantly to the success of the vital Pointe du Hoc Assault."
Beach Fox Green
"Captain Richmond and I started to grab men to push up the bluffs, but now we got into a true short-range killing zone. All the Krauts had to do was lob grenades down at us, and every approach was covered by interlocking fields of fire, barbed wire and mines...
And then came the miracle. Even now, as I recall it, the memory brings tears to my eyes. A United States Navy destroyer (likely USS Frankford DD-497 - ed) came to our rescue. The men of Fox Green will forever be indebted to their comrades aboard that ship, for it was obvious that they came in, not just to fight, but also to draw fire away from us, so as to give us a needed breather so that we could get up that slope.
The destroyer came slicing in out of the smoke, so close that I swore it was going to beach itself not two hundred yards away. At that range it suddenly looked huge, like a battleship going in harm's way and every damn gun on that ship opened up, from five-inchers, to 20mm and 40mm antiaircraft, to machine guns, and I suspect more than one man had a rifle or pistol out.
They just blasted that crest and the bunker at near point-blank range. Rounds were literally shrieking in only a few feet over our heads, tearing across the cliff face, rubble raining down. My God, how we cheered them. We had not been forgotten... They tore the crap out of that crest and under their protective fire we rushed the high ground... We had our toehold on the coast of France..."
After Action Report
Colonel S. B. Mason USA, chief of staff of the 1st Division, wrote the following letter to Rear Admiral Hall after inspection of the German defenses at Omaha. They should, he said, have been impregnable. "But there was one element of the attack that they could not parry...I am now firmly convinced that our supporting naval fire got us in; that without that gunfire we positively could not have crossed the beaches."
So let us all take time today to thank the men and women of the United States Navy, past and present, and wish them all a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
On a personal note, my father, Robert Thompson, did the machinery and propulsion designs for these Gleaves Class destroyers.